Vestax flat mixer controller prototype

11 years ago, this Vestax prototype stunned me into silence

And that's not easy

In the before times, I used to go to trade shows. Around this time of year, I’d begin to prepare to make the annual pilgrimage across the North Sea to Frankfurt for three days of hiking around the vast musical experience that is/was Musikmesse.

Fun fact — one year I worked out that I walked 13 miles to and from meetings. Yes, it’s that big.

Apart from the hot dogs, the highlight of each trip was being invited to the secret Vestax room. I’ve seen things in there that I should now feel free to talk about, but were shown in secret and will remain so, unless they appear in public somewhere.

And courtesy of former Vestax boss Toshi Nakama via his new company’s TNRD Associates Facebook page, one of them has. This stunner is from 2010.

 

No words

Usually, I can talk endlessly about new DJ gear. When presented with new shiny, I see the pros and cons and happily share them whether they like it or not. That is after all why I’m shown right?

But this is the one piece of gear that stunned me into silence. And even now when I look at it, I have nothing but admiration bordering on lust.

I’ll let Toshi explain what it’s about:

The height of the DJ mixer was limited to 80mm, the height of the control surface from the bottom of the SL1200MK2. This was the standard, and there was no other option. The carrying case and the design of the booth were all made to these dimensions.

In 2010, when the USB MIDI controller VCI-100 was starting to be recognised, I thought that I could finally present a future digital mixer that wasn’t limited by the size of the turntable, so I planned and created the DIGITAL MIXER. I wanted to produce it somehow. However, many of our distributors told us that the JOG wheel was not included and that we should prioritise the development of other mixers and controllers.

So this model which is not exhibited in public.

It still looks great today!

Yes. Yes it does.

Bend it until it breaks

I love it when people bend the established rules or just ignore them completely. But when it’s done with an eye on moving things forward and not sticking with existing paradigms because that’s how it’s always been done, I’m even more for it.

I cannot overestimate the impact this had on me. The only words that came quickly were “wow” and “fuck”. On the face of it, it’s just a shallow mixer. But on the other, it throws away convention and does what it wants — not for the sake of it, but for sound reasons.

Does a mixer need to be Technics height? Of course not. It’s just a waste of material. Has nobody heard of wooden blocks? Or even specially designed metal stands? And look at how easy it is to cable up. It’s literally right there — no awkwardly peering over the back into a dark corner hoping to hit the right RCA.

What is it though?

It’s strange — I see a mixer, but it’s also a controller. While I get the distributor feeling about the lack of jog wheel, they’re not always needed. And it’s not like you couldn’t pick up units to add on. I’d happily use this with an iPad and djay Pro AI. And I’d use the screen for hot cues.

Vestax always did have a thing for short runs and one-offs. Toshi and his team always tinkered with ideas and often made up prototypes to show at trade shows. Some ended up on the show floors as trial balloons, while others stayed strictly behind closed doors.

But god do I miss the days of always being surprised. The days of the risk-takers. The people who made crazy things because why the hell not. It’s how things move on — they’re dismissed as massive mistakes or progressed to be necessary boundary pushers.

We need some crazy ones back again.

Do you like it?

I love that I can show this now, and would love to get some feedback. Does this float your boat or sink your ship? Would you walk over hot coals to own this? Or is that just me?

  1. Oh man, I would’ve loved this thing. Back at that time I was mapping Traktor to do all kinds of crazy things that my Serato friends were dreaming of doing. I was using a PMC-08 Pro with their effects loops with outboard gear like a wah pedal for scratching. Vestax and Toshi were always ahead of the game when it came to innovative gear. It’s what drew me to them when I was building my own first setup nearly 20 years ago. I learned on Vestax mixers and when it came to buying my own setup, I went with an all Vestax setup with PDX tables instead of Technics due to the versatility and loved those tables so much. I still have that PMC-08 Pro I bought new and can’t bring myself to get rid of. I still drool over the Controller One every time I see one. I used to dream about what other crazy things they prototyped and showed behind closed door like this. That’s the kind of innovation we need again.

    1. Innovation will be software-driven. This will then be seen in new hardware features. The recent stem splitting found in djay and VirtualDJ will bounce through into hardware features.

      But it’ll take time. The turning circles of software companies are huge, so a seemingly simple new feature can take years to appear, and then another 12 months at best to appear in hardware.

    2. Vestax truly thought out of the box and the development department created some amazing prototypes like the Groovecaster and the S-1. Always blurring the lines between DJ gear and musical instruments. Innovative products like the QFO and the Faderboard were actually on sale, at least in Japan.

  2. Very cool-looking device!

    I’m very amused by the fact that the booth volume control is labelled ‘BOTTH’

  3. One of the most frustrating and genuinely sad moments of recent DJ history was the collapse of Vestax. To this day I am still angry for the loss of such vision and craziness. I have never owned a Vestax product but used their decks in one of my residencies (PDX-d3 I think, the ones that were vertical?). I always wanted one of their VCI controllers or mixers but it never happened. There is still time to grab one I suppose but you’re in driver hell.

    Quite why Serato or some other company didn’t step up and help them out I’ll never know,. I think InMusic would have had a go if it would have happened in modern times.

    I just love the look of this mixer and agree on your first words when you saw it. I would have muttered the same words too,.

    Vestax was the right amount of crazy and I liked that.

  4. I have a VCI-400, a VCI-380 and I absolutely love Vestax. It looks like a VCI-100 without jog-wheels and the width of an MPB maybe, or close., perfect to carry on.

  5. It reminds me to the faderfox mixer…

    I think this could have been successful but I’m one person who purchased a faderboard (among other weirdo stuff) so what I know?

    I still think jogs are over (because we have turntables, motorised jogs and Ableton Live…) but that “lack” of vision killed vestax then and killed djing now… Covid just make it faster.

    Who wants to just mix two topten songs? Or just scratch? All of that it’s doable (and done IMO)… we need new approaches and better music… but nop…

    I’m even so down that I have some “near to finished” ideas but zero will to make them ready.

    dawn…

      1. There are other things in my actual situation burning me out that I can left… so probably djing will be the one.

        Thanks for kindle words Mark.

  6. Wow this thing looks coooooooooooooooool!

    I thought when Vestax closed, they were supposed to re-open again? At least that’s what the rumors were.

    1. Vestax sort of opened again but in the form of StpVx, and makes very high-end audio gear, including the Phoenix mixer. I had one for a while:

      stpVestax-Hou-Ou-1

      But Vestax as we know is over. We can only hope that someone gets behind Toshi’s vision again.

      1. Did you really own a Phoenix Mixer?
        So it actually IS for REAL after all?
        What did you think of it?

        1. Coming in at a hefty £5700, I didn’t own one. I was sent the only unit in the UK to deliver a private appraisal for StpVx. While I had it I did a quick photoshoot.

          What did I think of it? Glorious. So versatile — club mixer, rotary mixer, and scratch mixer boxes ticked. Built like a tank, and sings like an angel. But without USB in the digital age definitely limits the audience now. Or should I say clearly defines the audience? You’d need to get a Serato box plated to match.

          You’ve got to really want it though. It’s a status symbol at that money, but you get a hand-built mixer quite like no other.

          1. Good to know that there actually exist built pieces of the StpVx.
            For a long time I was under the impression that it’s just a mirage from the internet.



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